By Kimberly Ortiz
Before students headed home for a long weeken filled with food and family, the theater department brought the classic “White Christmas” to Rider on Nov. 20.
The show, directed and choreographed by assistant professor Robin Lewis, had show-stopping dance numbers and stunning music.
As the beautifully orchestrated overture, conducted and musically directed by Louis Goldberg, began, the audience knew that the performance would not only bring the joy of Christmas into their hearts, but that they were in for a good time.
The show began with the classic “Happy Holiday,” performed by the leading men Bob Wallace and Phil Davis — played by junior musical theater majors Nick Ziobro and Daniel Maldonado, respectively — as the two then-soldiers celebrated Christmas during World War II in 1944. With a great kick-off to this song-and-dance-filled musical, Ziobro and Maldonado brought just the right amount of energy that would stay throughout the entire performance, leading right into Ziobro’s soulful execution of the song of the show’s title.
Flash forward to 1954, where Bob and Phil are now known across the nation as the song-and-dance Broadway act, Wallace and Davis. As they introduce themselves to the audience as this act, Lewis’ tap-filled choreography came into full swing with the show-stopping performance of “Let Yourself Go.” With a colorful performance filled with some of Rider’s most talented musical theater students, it’s no wonder that the performance was sold-out nearly every night.
With the two men on a journey to help each other — Bob with Phil’s career and Phil with Bob’s love life — they soon meet the famous Haynes sisters, Betty and Judy, played by junior musical theater major Kelly Prendergast and sophomore musical theater major Allie Wiatrowski. As the audience meets the two sisters through the song “Sisters,” a 1920s-esque styled performance, it was clear that these two talented ladies would intrigue not only Wallace and Davis, but the crowd as well.
Although Betty and Bob struggled to like each other in the beginning, Phil and Judy had an instant chemistry, as seen in the incredibly choreographed performance of “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” which not only brought out the characters of the two, but also the dance skills and strong partnership of Maldonado and Wiatrowski, as well.
Hoping that Bob and Betty will fall in love with each other, Phil and Judy set up a plan in which Phil and Bob “unknowingly” travel to Vermont, the same place the Haynes sisters are traveling for a performance of their own.
The four performers, along with the other train riders, are certain and ready for the snow that they are about to encounter in Vermont, singing an excited and upbeat performance of “Snow;” however, all are soon interrupted by the conductor, when he announces that the weather for Vermont is in the 70’s.
Wallace, Davis and the Haynes sisters then check into a small inn in an attempt to search for a performance venue over the holidays. Met by the hotel’s concierge Martha Watson, played by senior musical theater major Margaret Warrington, the men also meet the hotel’s owner and their former commander, General Henry Waverly, played by junior theater studies major Matthew Woodside.
After being granted permission by the two to perform their act, through a series of getting-to-know-you’s and rehearsals, the first act ended with another dance-filled number in bright blue titled “Blue Skies,” led by Ziobro in one of his greatest performances on the Rider stage.
The second act began with just the same amount of energy as the first, starting with another tap-filled showstopper, “I Love a Piano.”
Although the show primarily focused on Wallace and Davis, through the song “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun,” the audience was not only able to see the musical chops of Prendergast and Wiatrowski, but of Warrington, as well, who showed off to the audience her vocal skills.
As the rehearsals came and went, Bob and Betty’s relationship seemed to struggle, until Bob following Betty to New York led her to rethink how she truly felt about him and they both returned to Vermont to profess their love to each other through the soulful ballad of a reprise of “How Deep is the Ocean.”
The performances of Wallace and Davis and the Haynes sisters finally begin, after hearing that General Waverly got his wish of returning to the army. Each character had their wish granted with snow finally touching the ground and the show’s finale of “White Christmas (Reprise)” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” a performance that was filled with holiday red and the true theatrical and Rider sense of family.
These successful performances at the Bart Luedeke Center Theater truly gave a sense of family and love to Rider, just in time for the holiday season.
Printed in the 11/30/16 edition.